Saturday, October 08, 2016

An Overgrown Frat Boy

The most recent revelations of the shallowness of the soul of Donald Trump are hardly surprising. Even as I find them disturbing, they are completely in character with the many other misanthropic comments he has made along the way. His outbursts against immigrants, disabled people, gay people, Mexicans and Muslims have revealed him to be deeply bigoted man with an adolescent lack of impulse control.

 But Trump seems to have a real problem with women. He does not respect them, something that is evident in the way he describes them. That was evident early on when he made a comment that his daughter was hot and if she wasn’t his daughter, he’d go after her. That comment turned my stomach. His long string of failed marriages, some ending even as he was publicly and proudly romancing his next victim, suggests that devotion to relationship is hardly a primary concern for the Donald.

Trump seems fixated on younger, attractive women. I suspect it is largely to compensate for his own inabilities to come to grips with his aging and ultimate death. In that, he shares a common aversion to that reality with American consumers who daily respond to constant pounding by death-denying advertising by purchasing everything from teeth whiteners to chemicals producing four hour erections requiring trips to emergency rooms.

Trump’s makeup and hair styling suggest a discomfort with the ravages of Father Time on his body. But his braggadocio regarding women suggest an obsessive need to convince himself of his own fading virility.

Where this gets deadly is when the insecurities lurking in Trump’s personal shadow begin to be projected out onto others. His midnight tweets about the former Miss Universe suggest both the shallowness of this man (what of any level of depth can really be said in a tweet at three in the morning?) and his need to inflate his own ego at the expense of a former contestant in a beauty contest.

Of course, the beauty queen joins a long line of those Trump has targeted for his projected Shadow content. This is a man with some pretty deep insecurities. At some level he is an equal opportunity misanthropist, launching ad hominem attacks on fellow candidates and large segments of the American populace at will. Indeed, in many ways he embodies the Shadow of the American Soul.

At the same time, he seeks to market himself to the American people as a successful businessman despite a series of high profile and costly bankruptcies. He also seeks to sell himself as America’s strongman, an American caudillo or Il Duce, to whom frightened Americans should turn over their own decision making.  Social theorist Erich Fromm warned of the dangers of an Escape from Freedom (and thus responsibility) in the years following WWII.

The frightening thing is that so many Americans appear willing to do just that.

No Moral Superiority

I cringed as I heard the tapes from Access Hollywood played last night on the Rachel Maddow Show. I had two immediate reactions to the content. First, what an incredibly disrespectful thing to say about any woman. The objectification in this statement at some level reveals how Trump is able to say such misanthropic things about people generally. When you start down the slippery slope of refusing to see the other as a human being and thus entitled to respect of their innate human dignity, anything is possible.  

 But, second, I must hasten to note that I do not make these observations from a position of moral superiority. Part of why I cringed is recognizing that I have said things just like this during my lifetime, most notably while president of a fraternity in my undergrad days at the University of Florida. While Trump rightly calls this locker room talk, in fact life in a fraternity house is an extended locker room experience and the discourse about women there often reflects this. At some level, the constant pressure to prove one’s manhood that Trump exhibits as a senior citizen is much more comprehensible in the delayed development milieu of the fraternity house.  

But the fact it is easier to understand does not mean it is acceptable. Indeed, in the fraternity houses and sports bars across the country, women are regularly targeted by alcohol emboldened young men, many with the same sense of entitlement as Donald Trump routinely exhibits. The results have been disastrous. And these are just for the incidences we know about. Most are never reported.

It’s easy to criticize Donald Trump for his boorish, misogynist behaviors. He gives us a lot to work with. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. But to focus only on Trump also lets a lot of us off the hook to account for our own behaviors and attitudes which have reached their apotheosis in The Donald. 

That includes a political culture in which an attitude of winning at all cost has seen fear-mongering and the demonizing of our fellow Americans as an acceptable means to that end in virtually every election of my adult life. When our leaders set such an example, it’s hardly surprising that the general populace will replicate it in their own lives. Indeed, Trump’s misanthropy has emboldened bigotry of virtually every form to come out of the closet during this election.

Perhaps we need to bring these demons out into the open for close scrutiny if not an exorcism. But is this really the America we want to live in?

It also includes a media culture which constantly confuses sensation with reportable news. When was actual news ever anything other than “breaking?” Now owned by a handful of corporations, our media pays a rather superficial homage to a well-intentioned but ultimately misguided desire to present both sides of any issue equally. But without any kind of critical assessment as to whether they actually are equally substantive and supportable, we find ourselves in the absurd position of crackpot climate change deniers sharing the stage with those representing 97% of the scientific community as if equally authoritative.

In the end, our media devolves into little more than a source of constant distraction seeking to entertain the public (and thereby sell its corporate sponsors products) even as it defaults on its duty to thoughtfully inform us.

Finally, it includes those who of us still support Mr. Trump regardless of everything he has said and done which has consistently revealed him to be unfit for any office in America, especially its highest office. Ralph Waldo Emerson once remarked that an obsession with consistency is the hobgoblin of tiny minds. To that I would add cold hearts and dried up souls. Mr. Trump embodies the very worst of America in virtually every manner. An unflagging loyalty to a pathologically narcissistic, misogynist 70 year old frat boy is not an admirable trait for anyone with even a modicum of intellect, compassion or moral fiber.   

We can do a lot better. 

Misogyny is not acceptable from any source any time. When we see it in the extended adolescence that is often Greek life, that makes it no more acceptable. But the context in which it occurs there does suggest that frat boys like me will eventually grow up. 

That The Donald has failed to do so is a tragedy. But America need not make it her own.

Harry Scott Coverston
Orlando, Florida

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.

Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Ages, Commentary on Micah 6:8


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